IT'S a crime of prehistoric proportions.
Brazen vandals chipped away at a 115 million-year-old dinosaur footprint in a Victorian national park, officials said.
"It looked like somebody had taken to it with either a hammer or a rock, and had broken off sections of the toes," Parks Victoria ranger Brian Martin said.
Parks rangers discovered the damage to the theropod footprint at Bunurong Marine Park near South Gippsland while taking a school group on a tour last week.
Mr Martin told the BBC it looked like the thugs deliberately targeted the imprint, which had been left uncovered for visitors to observe.
"They would need to know exactly where it is to find it. Many people quite easily walk right past it," he said.
It looked like someone had used a hammer to break off pieces of the prehistoric three-toed mark, which is about 30 centimetres wide, Mr Martin said.
The vandals also left the "freshly broken" pieces scattered around the tidal rock platform.
Palaeontologists first discovered the ancient imprint in 2006 and authorities said they were disheartened by the damage.
"The significance of the footprint is that it represents a moment frozen in time when a meat-eating dinosaur stood on that spot and left an impression of its foot," officials said.
Mike Cleeland, from the Bunurong Environment Centre, said he hoped the footprint could be repaired.
"The thrill of seeing a real dinosaur footprint has been diminished with the callous act of vandalism," he said.
"Fortunately, I was able to retrieve some of the broken pieces of the footprint and hopefully the technicians at Museum Victoria may be able to restore the footprint to some degree."
This story was originally published in the New York Post and was reprinted with permission.